book: Crimson Lake (2017) by Candice Fox


Less than a year ago, Sydney cop Ted Conkaffey was, because of a mass of circumstantial evidence, convicted in the court of public opinion of the brutal rape of a thirteen-year-old, even though the legal case against him collapsed for lack of any clear indication of his guilt. Hoping to try to build himself a new life and terrified of self-styled vigilantes who might take the law into their own hands, he flees to the small northern Queensland town of Crimson Lake. Surely no one will recognize him this far from home?

But of course they do.

Enigmatically, Ted’s lawyer introduces him to Amanda Pharrell, a Crimson Lake native who was convicted of a brutal murder in her teens but has now served her prison time and established herself as a PI. Amanda takes Ted on as a partner even though she knows of his history, and together they work to try to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Continue reading

book: You Should Have Left (2016; trans 2017 Ross Benjamin) by Daniel Kehlmann

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A screenwriter rents a house somewhere on the edge of the Alps so that his actress wife and their four-year-old daughter can have something of a vacation while he gets his teeth into his latest screenplay — the sequel to his last movie, a phenomenally successful piece of fluff called Besties. What we read in this (very) short novel is his journal of the first few days after they move in, interspersed with bits of draft screenplay and the like.

It soon becomes evident that there’s something wrong about the house. At some times it seems to have more rooms than at others. There’s a picture hanging on one of the walls except when it isn’t. The lengths of the corridors seem unfixed. And there are times when you can’t see your own reflection . . .

You Should Have Left is a Continue reading

Her Infidelity (2015 TVM)

Canada / 88 minutes / color / Johnson Production Group, Drie Productions, Lifetime Dir: Christie Will Pr: Oliver De Caigny Scr: Christie Will, Alan Donahue Cine: Anthony Metchie Cast: Rachel Hunter, Clayton Chitty, Miranda Frigon, Carter Evancic, Chelan Simmons, Lane Edwards, Loretta Walsh, Christina Jastrzembska, Barbara Wallace, Beverley Elliott, Daniella Evangelista, Bailey Skodje.

An odd offering, this has all the feel of a direct-to-video erotic thriller but lacks the nudity and raunch—hardly surprising in that it was first shown as a Lifetime movie. (My copy had a “fucking” beeped out, although the censors missed a later sigh of “Fuck!”) But almost all of the rest of the attributes are there, from the occasionally amateurish screenplay to the sometimes dodgy acting and the overall sense that this is a production upon which no great wads of money were spent.

And yet I found Her Infidelity oddly appealing, with moments of interest in the mix. This may be a pretty mediocre movie with a plot that doesn’t bear too much analysis, but it’s not entirely witless.

Rachel Hunter as Lily

Lily Helms (Hunter) is convinced husband Peter (Edwards), who has to travel a lot on business, is having an affair with the assistant, Jane Hill (uncredited), who’s Continue reading

book: An Unwanted Guest (2018) by Shari Lapena


I recently read Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party, about a group of privileged guests snowed in on a Scottish estate when murder strikes, and had (genuinely) mixed feelings about it: a lot that I liked but also quite a lot about which I was dubious. Someone (I’ve no idea who) suggested that Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest offered a better working-out of a similar premise, and so I decided to give it a try.

Various guests arrive, mainly in couples, for a weekend at the luxury Mitchell’s Inn in the Catskills, only for the snow to descend, the roads to block, the power to fail (wot, no generator?), the telephone lines to go down, all the usual. There’s no wifi. Cut off entirely from the outside world, the guests and the inn’s skeleton staff of two must cope with a series of murders . . . as, all the while, we learn of the nasty little secrets they’ve been keeping hidden from the world. If you’ve read much in the field, you’ll recognize the basic plot.

And again I had mixed feelings.

First, this is generally a Continue reading

Pali Road (2015)

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US, China / 95 minutes / color / Crimson Forest, Cuixing, China Film Assist, Dadi, Island Dir: Jonathan Lim Pr: Daxing Chang, Cathy Lee, Kenneth Burke, Jonathan Lim Scr: Doc Pedrolie, Victoria Arch Cine: Quyen Tran Cast: Michelle Chen, Jackson Rathbone, Sung Kang, Henry Ian Cusick, Lauren Sweetser, Elizabeth Sung, Tzi Ma, Maddox Lim, Elevila Giles, Yamato Cibulka, Conner Lum, Kelly Rice.

I’m not sure whether this is a psychological puzzler, a neonoir (just possibly) or a fantasy of perception (to use the term I coined for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy), but what I do know is that it’s an immensely satisfying movie.

On Hawaii, hospital heart specialist Lily (or Lilly) Zhang (Chen) is much in love with her boyfriend, elementary schoolteacher Neil Lang (Rathbone, of Twilight fame; no relation to Basil), who wants to marry her. They’re arguing about the logistics of this when he drives off the road and crashes into a wall.

Michelle Chen as Lily

At a later time Lily awakens to discover she’s been married for years to her boss at the Ohana Hospital, Dr. Mitch Kayne (Kang), and they have a five-year-old son together, James (Lim). Everyone, including psychologist/hypnotherapist/neurologist Tim Young (Cusick), tells her that her memories of her life with Neil are just coma-induced fantasies.

Jackson Rathbone as Neil

Lily disagrees. She googles Neil, Continue reading

book: The Big Bow Mystery (1891) by Israel Zangwill

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Published initially as a newspaper serial in 1891, The Big Bow Mystery is generally regarded as the first locked-room mystery novel. (It’s retitled in some editions The Perfect Crime to match the title of the 1928 movie based on the book, the first screen adaptation of three.)

No one can believe it when mild-mannered Arthur Constant is found dead in his bed one morning in the house where he lodged in Bow, in London’s East End. The dead man seemed to have had no enemies: he was a Christian and a socialist who practiced what he preached by trying to help the lot of the poor, he was personally generous to a fault, ever polite, ever affable and friendly. A fine, upstanding human being, in other words.

Scotland Yard, in the form of over-cocky Inspector Edward Wimp, soon focuses on Continue reading

book: Pursuit (2019) by Joyce Carol Oates


The family-less, agnostic Abby marries Willem despite his deeply Christian family and his own religiosity. The morning after the wedding, before the marriage has even been consummated, Abby steps under a bus on her way to work. Was is it an attempted suicide or an accident brought about by her distraction of mind? As she lies in hospital, firstly in a coma and then in various decreasing levels of care, we learn in a long flashback of the nightmare childhood that led her to this place. Once she regains strength, she tells Willem the truth of her past, and together they . . . Continue reading

book: Van Gogh’s Bad Café (1997) by Frederic Tuten


An odd little book that somehow I found myself liking while at the same time not enjoying it very much at all.

One day at the end of the twentieth century, while rambling in Alphabet City, NYC, our narrator meets a mysterious young Frenchwoman, dressed in archaic garb, who steps out of a crevice in a wall. She is, it emerges, Ursula, the lover of Vincent van Gogh. Somehow she has traveled through time and space to be here. At first all she wants to find is a reliable source of the morphine she craves. For his part all the narrator wants is her love, but that’s something she can’t give him because it belongs to Vincent, to whom she’s determined to return once she’s explored this new age. She can Continue reading

Eddie’s Place (1955 TVM)

US / 25 minutes / bw / Four Star Productions, CBS Dir & Pr: Roy Kellino Scr: Willard Wiener, Herbert A. Spiro Story: A.E. Houghton Jr (i.e., Buck Houghton) Cine: George E. Diskant Cast: Ida Lupino, William Talman, Kathryn Card, Louis Jean Heydt, Glen Gordon.

This was episode #24 of the third season of Four Star Playhouse (1952–6); some while ago I wrote about another episode of this TV series, A String of Beads (1954 TVM) dir William Cameron Menzies and starring Angela Lansbury. That episode was an odd one out: the format of the series was that Charles Boyer, David Niven, Ida Lupino and Dick Powell would take turns starring in the playlets that made up the episodes. On March 10 1955 it was Lupino’s turn again.

Ida Lupino as Ellen

Ellen (Lupino), having finished her sentence at a labor camp, The Farm, hitches a ride from Eddie Reeves (Talman). He gives her a job in the diner he owns, Eddie’s Place, whose Continue reading

book: The Hunting Party (2019) by Lucy Foley


A bunch of old Oxford University friends get together every year for a New Year’s holiday, and this time they’ve come to a remote Scottish estate for the celebrations. However, early on New Year’s Day one of them goes missing, and the next day the murdered corpse is found by the estate staff. The estate is isolated from the rest of the world by a severe snowstorm. There’s a serial killer at large in the region. What’s going on?

The first thing to recognize is that Continue reading